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The Doctor discovers monsters lurking beneath the worst traffic jam in history…
The Doctor (David Tennant) and Martha.

Exploring the hidden depths of Doctor Who’s most intriguing stories…

Looking out onto the bottom of the fast lane, the Doctor (David Tennant) immediately identifies the monstrous crustaceans with eyes on stalks. The creatures responsible for so many deaths on New New York’s smog-shrouded orbital motorway are Macra.

Did you pinch yourself at that moment, too? Did you think, just for a second, that maybe you were having one of those Doctor Who dreams that – if we’re honest – we’ve all had once or twice, and sometimes more often? Because in 2007, if one were to have listed the 20th-century monsters one might reasonably have expected to see revived in the 21st-century series, the Macra probably wouldn’t have made the list.

But there they were: teeming hordes of computer-rendered Macra, as opposed to the prop featured in the original 1967 Macra Terror story, which – going by the evidence of the few seconds’ worth of surviving footage – might not have looked much cop on screen. “There’ll probably only be a few thousand people who’ll get the reference,” Tennant told Doctor

Who Magazine at the time. “To everyone else they’re just a big new scary monster.”

More than a few thousand, perhaps; but chances are, no more than a few hundred of those would have been able to remember watching the original Macra Terror with even the slightest clarity.

For everyone else, Gridlock made the Macra real in a way that off -screen telesnaps, or Target novelisations – or DWM articles, indeed – never could. A dream come true, in a way.

One of the smog-breathing Macra.


A huge, unseen attacker rocks the interior of a shabby but futuristic vehicle, Car 1-zero-hot-5. The occupants radio for help, but their call is put on hold…

00m 01sWe open on a degraded shot of TV traffic reporter Sally Calypso (Erika Macleod), seen over the monitor of the car, with a stylised Statue of Liberty in the background. Oddly enough, the next episode, Daleks in Manhattan (2007), opens with the TARDIS materialising on Liberty Island, at the base of the real-life statue.

In the shooting script, dated Monday 4 September 2006, Sally’s Traffic News was “sponsored by Eeze-E-Bone, to soothe those aches and pains”. Much of the Gridlock world pays homage to various freaky future visions from the pages of cult weekly comic 2000 AD – as writer/showrunner Russell T Davies, a long-term ‘Squaxx dek Thargo’ (Betelgeusian for ‘Friend of [alien editor] Tharg’), told DWM at the time.

Sally Calypso, for example, is “a ghost of the Halo Jones newsreader” – ie, Swifty Frisko, host of Dataday, who dispenses ‘traff ax’ to the population of floating off - Manhattan ghetto ‘The Hoop’ in The Ballad of Halo Jones (beginning in 1984; written by Alan Moore, with art by Ian Gibson).

Milo (Travis Oliver) takes Martha (Freema Agyeman) hostage.

00m 26s Stage directions described 1-zero-hot-5’s occupants, Ma (Judy Norman) and Pa (Graham Padden), as “mid-50s, thin” – but didn’t specify that they should be dressed in a pinafore and in dungarees-under-blackjacket respectively, exactly as per the subjects of Grant Wood’s 1930 painting American Gothic. Given the painting’s properly iconic status, isn’t it a little odd that Ma and Pa don’t have American accents, like Sally Calypso?

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About Doctor Who Magazine

Issue includes: • An exclusive preview of the animated Macra Terror • Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines recall the making of the original Macra Terror • A lost Dalek story from 1966 – and the previously untold story of its celebrated writer • A tribute to 1960s Doctor Who producer Innes Lloyd • An interview with Mark Troughton about his famous father • Writer Stephen Gallagher tells DWM about his new take on the 1981 story Warriors' Gate • The second part of an exclusive interview with Season 18’s script editor Christopher H Bidmead • How did the Doctor become such a rebel? DWM investigates how the series changed during the 1960s... • Part Two of Herald of Madness, a new comic strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends • Cosplayers recreate the Fourth Doctor's Season 18 style • The Fact of Fiction delves into the 2007 story Gridlock • Our verdict on Tom Baker's Doctor Who novel Scratchman and the Season 18 Blu-ray box set • The Blogs of Doom, audio reviews, previews, news, prize-winning competitions and much, much more!